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Notre Dame Football

Karson Hobbs Embracing Culture in Notre Dame Secondary

June 26, 2024
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It’s not a secret Notre Dame’s cornerback room has made great strides since Mike Mickens arrived in South Bend. 

The talent has improved, but Mickens’ ability to develop the room has allowed Notre Dame’s cornerbacks to ascend. 

Notre Dame enters the 2024 season with star power in Benjamin Morrison, a rising star in Christian Gray and a savvy experienced veteran in Jaden Mickey. The Irish aren’t the deepest group, as Clarence Lewis and Ryan Barnes transferred out of the program, and Cam Hart went to the NFL. 

Incoming freshmen Karson Hobbs and Leonard Moore will likely experience an expedited learning curve, as Marcus Freeman decided not to bring in a graduate transfer in the spring to boost the depth. 

Hobbs will start his career in the nickel, which will be an adjustment, but it’s a position the Cincinnati native is looking forward to learning. 

“I have not had a true background in it, but I remember in high school, Coach (Mark) Elder would put me at nickel,” stated Hobbs. “It was against Springfield. I’ll never forget the semifinals against Anthony Brown. He ended up going to UK. So I had that matchup against him and it helped prep me a lot.

“I can’t say it has caught me completely off guard but I believe God blessed me with enough abilities to be able to take any challenge that comes in front of me.” 

The good news for Hobbs is that he has an experienced veteran to learn from: Jordan Clark, who transferred from Arizona State to be Notre Dame’s starting nickel. Although their games differ, Hobbs is clearly soaking in all he can from Clark. 

“I talk to him every single day,” explained Hobbs. “We were just on the field together yesterday. He is beyond not just a great leader, but he’s a great person at heart. I hope everybody gets to see what he brings to the table. He’s a technician, he’s physical and he’s under-looked. I really do believe that.

“He is a very talented player and he’s teaching me a lot about technique at nickel that I needed to know in order to be successful.” 

All-Americans Benjamin Morrison and Xavier Watts also have the attention of the freshman cornerback. Sure, it’s easy to see a great player on the field, but Hobbs is diving deeper and watching how they go about their business in The Gug. 

“They’ve shown me a different way of football, not just from the physical and on the field standpoint, but they show me a different way just from the study habits they have,” explained Hobbs. “You want to be around guys like them because they study and learn the game well. I look up to them for that because I want to know the game just the way they do.” 

And yes, for Hobbs, that includes studying the playbook. 

“In high school, I never truly looked over our playbook,” Hobbs stated. “It was high school football, ‘OK, you’re running zone or you’re running man.’ They tell you before the play.

“Here, you truly get in what you put in and I’m just excited for this football season. I just keep trusting God and praising him and thanking him for all the opportunities he’s given me to make it this far, and hopefully, the journey continues.” 

The jump to college is one with many emotions and feelings. 

There is excitement, nerves and everything in between. Morrison, who was a freshman two years ago, went out of his way to help the freshmen secondary class transition even quicker. It also set a tone for the room. 

“Ben Morrison had bought me a bike the first day,” Hobbs explained. "Me, Leonard and Taebron (Bennie-Powell), he bought us all a bike. Regardless of the money, even if he didn’t have it, if he had a dollar, he’d give you 50 cents. That’s just who he is.

“When you’re around people like that, it motivates you to be like that one day as well. I want the young guys to be able to look up to me like that and have a good impact and be a good role model for them.” 

The 6-foot-1, 184-pounder not only attended Archbishop Moeller, one of Ohio’s premier programs, but Hobbs has trained with former NFL great Pacman Jones over the last few years. 

Jones, who was an electric cornerback in the league, not only helped Hobbs with his game, but he also mentored the Notre Dame cornerback off the field. 

“Pacman not only helped my game in football, but as a role model and leading me through adversity,” said Hobbs. “I can’t forget the times during my sophomore year with no scholarships. I would call him, and I wondered why I was playing and doing everything I needed to do and he would tell me to trust God and keep my head up.” 

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